Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa is in talks with Ontario as the province looks to provide paid sick days to employees, but stressed that such leave should be delivered directly through employers.
The prime minister says Ontario should work through provincially-regulated businesses to implement a sick-leave program, as his government did with federally regulated workplaces. His comments echo a statement by a spokeswoman for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who said earlier Tuesday that Ottawa will help when Ontario is ready to mandate a sick-leave program for provincially regulated businesses.
Ontario is offering to double a federal sick-leave benefit if Ottawa can administer the topped-up payment to workers in the province. The provincial finance minister proposed the change in a letter to the federal government, saying the move would give $1,000 a week to eligible workers.
Peter Bethlenfalvy says it would be the fastest way to enhance sick leave for Ontario workers. The Ontario government has been heavily criticized for failing to bring a provincial sick-leave program during the coronavirus pandemic, with experts saying it would help prevent workplace outbreaks of the coronavirus.
The recent coronavirus-related death of a 13-year-old Brampton, Ont., girl whose father is an essential worker has renewed calls for an Ontario sick-leave program. As the pandemic has dragged on, calls for Ontario to provide frontline and essential workers with a provincial paid sick leave program have grown louder. But Ontario Premier Doug Ford rejected recent pushes from both the NDP and the Liberals amid the third wave to create a provincial program.
There was a sudden change of course last week when Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government was looking into the possibility of a provincial paid sick day program. Then, Ford issued an emotional apology last Thursday for introducing restrictions that sparked furious backlash as he confirmed his government would bring in paid sick-leave for workers after months of refusing to do so.
Meanwhile, in Ontario’s biggest city a fast-food restaurant, a car dealership and a makeup manufacturer are among the first Toronto workplaces ordered to close or partially shut down due to coronavirus outbreaks. Toronto Mayor John Tory says the diverse types of workplaces experiencing outbreaks show that it’s difficult to legislate what is considered an essential business.
The city ordered the full closure of four businesses and the partial closure of seven others under new rules that came into effect on Friday. Those rules allow the city to shutter businesses with outbreaks of five or more people.
Toronto’s chief medical officer of health says that new closures will be announced every Thursday afternoon until the order is lifted. Neighbouring Peel Region also brought in an order allowing it to close workplaces with outbreaks and partially closed two Amazon fulfilment centres over the weekend.